With the holiday season fast approaching, we want to take a moment to remind everyone that it’s okay to ease into celebrating. Take the holidays at your own pace, even if that pace has changed from previous years. This is particularly important for those who are pregnant or postpartum. Your health, happiness, and ability to rest are important parts of your family’s holiday celebration.
It is often so much easier to say “yes” than “no”, especially with our societal norms for those who identify as women and/or mothers. This year, we encourage you to embrace your boundaries. If hosting your extended family sounds like too much, it’s okay to say no. If making a Thanksgiving pie sounds stressful, store bought is delicious. And by all means, stay in your pajamas as long as you want!
Although well-meaning, family and friends can expect far too much from people who are pregnant or postpartum. This really gets amplified during the holidays, when loved ones want to see your growing belly or snuggle your precious new baby during their first holiday season. Your physical and emotional wellbeing needs to be a priority when creating seasonal joy for those around you. If you’re not up to going to a holiday event (or ten), “no” is a wonderful answer. You can always add a photo of your bump all dressed for the holiday season or some shots of your baby under the tree to soothe any feelings of loss friends and family may feel by your absence. Video chats are another great tool. Maybe someone could even drop off a plate of leftovers so that you can still share a holiday meal and let your family know how much you enjoyed their offerings.
If you do too much during these ephemeral times in your life, you will feel it in the future – both in the immediate aftermath and in your memories for years to come. As a birth worker, I can’t tell you how many times I have heard from people that they resented the pressure put on them during November and December to “bounce back” and celebrate the holidays as if they hadn’t just created a whole human being weeks or months prior. People remember these experiences years, even decades, after they occurred.
You are still healing from massive hormonal shifts and the complete restructuring of your internal organs. Doing too much or acquiescing to the unrealistic expectations of others can cause emotional distress, physical pain, and even increased bleeding. If you’re nursing, another consideration in your holiday plans is who you feel comfortable feeding your baby in front of. Keep visits short, and if you’re going to someone else’s home, make sure you can access a private space for nursing (or mental) breaks.
You also do not have to let anyone hold your baby! Many new parents want to keep their babies close almost constantly. That is not only okay, it likely has some evolutionary advantages. Use the excuse of seasonal germs as liberally as you want to. Babywearing is another great strategy to keep your baby in your arms. Most people refrain from asking when a baby is clearly cozy on its parent chest in a carrier, but for those who need a gentle nudge to understand – let them know that those wraps can be complicated to put on and take off. Once baby is in, they’re staying put.
Whatever stage of life you’re in, the holiday season is the perfect time to set and enforce some boundaries. Do what brings you joy.
Author Mary Badame is the Quality Assurance Manager at Fika Midwifery and is a passionate advocate for midwife-led care, increased birth options, and better reproductive healthcare for everyone.